Mavs struggling to survive effects from the Kristaps Porziņģis trade

Much has been made of the Dallas Mavericks’ roster throughout the 2022-2023 season. Despite a conference finals appearance just a year ago, the team’s underwhelming roster leaves a lot to be desired. The biggest reason the Mavericks are in this position, however, is the trade for Kristaps Porziņģis.

The frustration over Dallas’s lack of a “second star” is not for a lack of trying. Less than one full season into Luka Dončić’s Dallas tenure, a massive deal was pulled off with New York to bring in one of the biggest young stars in the NBA. The trade did not work out for the Mavericks. Porziņģis could not stay on the court, and a clearly awkward fit with Dončić was present from day one.

That’s not to say the deal yielded absolutely nothing, however. What is often forgotten is Porziņģis’ performance his first year in Dallas. By and large, he was pretty good considering the injury he was returning from, and had a smoking hot run in the bubble before his second major knee injury sidelined him in the playoffs. Tim Hardaway Jr. has also been a worthwhile addition to the team, albeit an inconsistent one. 

The Mavs even started Courtney Lee in the season opener against the Washington Wizards that very next season and got some excellent playing time out of Trey Burke. Burke made enough of an impression that he was signed back to the Mavericks for their bubble appearance, where he quite possibly emerged as the third-best player on the team through that stretch. For whatever reason, Burke did not play well the following year after earning a multi-year deal. 

While there are certainly some positives to take from the trade, the Mavericks find themselves in a nearly impossible situation as a direct result of it. While they should be commended for taking an aggressive swing, the reality is the assets they gave up in the trade have proven to be extremely inhibiting for them. In particular, the second first-round pick they sent in the deal has been a crushing blow to any and all trade hopes.

Dallas clearly lost some ground in negotiating this trade with the Knicks. There has been vague reporting regarding exactly how the deal materialized, but the general consensus is the Mavericks initially contacted the Knicks regarding the availability of Hardaway Jr., before expanding the talks into the blockbuster it became. The trade came around a week before the deadline, and once the full terms emerged, it was clear the Knicks got what they wanted out of the deal. Dallas parted with its top-ten overall selection from only a year before, and two further top picks. Two expiring deals were thrown in as well to make the numbers work. 

Dallas also had no problem taking on the deals of Hardaway Jr. and Lee. All of this, plus the two picks instead of the usual one, in return for an incredibly risky asset, is hard to characterize as anything other than a win for the Knicks even without the benefit of hindsight. Dallas has not overcome their Stepien rule issues since the trade, essentially taking them out of any major deals for years to come. 

The protections Dallas has on the pick are also preventing them from making any major deal until the second of the two picks owed to the Knicks conveys. As a result, there just isn’t a lot the Mavs can do at the moment. They can be outbid by most teams in the league for any disgruntled star, and without some unheard-of series of salary dumps, have no way to clear legitimate cap space in free agency. 

Could they make a trade for a starting-caliber wing or backcourt player? Sure. But that exact type of trade is precisely what has gotten the Mavericks into this mess in the first place. All told, the Mavericks are stuck where they are at the moment, as a direct result of the Porziņģis trade.

The Mavericks play the Washington Wizards tonight and Porziņģis will miss the game as he is out with an ankle sprain, which occurred against the Orlando Magic on January 21st. Porziņģis is listed as week-to-week. He is having a great season, averaging 22.1 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game, played in 41-of-46 games this season.

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